Monday, June 25, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi; Egypt’s President

OK- so I do not intend to write a big journalistic blog entry, despite yesterday being one of the momentous in the history of Egypt. Lets see how I get on...

In case you have been holed up in a cave somewhere- and this is the 1st thing you see online- Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhoods candidate has won the presidential elections in Egypt and will be sworn into office, this coming Saturday, 30th June.

Literally within 4 minutes of the announcement of the results (which I watching avidly on tv, twitter and facebook all at the same time!!)  I received a message on msn from a dancer in China, panicking. She was concerned that an Islamist president would instantly ban bellydance in Egypt. Seeing all the reactions on facebook, from people all over the world, including people here in Cairo, it seems like this is the common assumption. That and the fear from my friends and family that somehow, instantly, Cairo had turned into a dangerous place to be for me, a foreign, non-muslim, female bellydancer.

Is the worry a valid one? Yes, it is a possibility. I would be lying if I haven’t had a few teary moments over the past 18 months frightened for the future of my livelihood and my art. There is a risk that the worst of people’s fears may come true. That dance would be banned. That alcohol would be banned. That bikini’s would be banned. That strict dress codes for women will be enforced, etc etc etc .They are all possible. However I personally feel they are extremely unlikely. Certainly not in the near future, if at all. Why not?

First of all, after 18 months of disruption, at a time when there is a world recession, Egypt’s economy is not strong. Tourism is one of the country’s biggest sources of income, and employment. To damage any of the sectors which service tourism would be suicide for a president who I presume would like to stay in office. 22 million people work in tourism. That is more votes than either Shafiq or Morsi won in these elections. In fact, it is close to the actual total number of votes in the whole of Egypt for these presidential elections (just under 26 million)!

Secondly, there is a chance that Morsi will not remain as president for the full 4 year term. Why not? read Sandmonkey’s blog entry with all his reasoning behind this.  I do not know enough about politics to pass much comment. But the logic seems sound and level headed, so I am going with it!

So, my thinking is this; Morsi may be Brotherhood, but he has committed to serving ALL people. That was in his initial speech yesterday. He will absolutely have his hands too full trying to bring the country back into some sort of balanced economy to worry about us dancers. He may not even be there for long enough to deal with a fraction of what he has to anyway.

I am not an expert in any way. These are my own personal hopes and musings.

When the result was announced that he won last night, my heart and stomach both moved drastically at the same time. My emotions were split since I, like most people I spoke to, did not want either of them. We were all convinced that if Shafiq got in, then there would have been riots and a lot of bloodshed in the streets last night. I am incredibly relieved that this didn’t happen.  Also, if Shafiq got in, then it seemed to be commonly felt around the world that it would be a step backwards in the democratic process, since we all heard the numbers coming from the polling stations last week and since he was seen as being (rightly or wrongly) the puppet of SCAF.

However, I wasn’t exactly backing Morsi, since the truth is; we just don’t know whether he will aim for a more secular unified Egypt or whether his religious duties (as he might see it) could overly influence his political ones.

So, in summary, we do not know what the future holds. It is not certain at all whether people in my industry will suffer at all. Time will tell. People have become politically aware in the last 18 months at an amazing rate. As long as the people now do not sit back and just revert to being sheep, as long as they continue to question and confront what is happening in their own country then there is still hope that Egypt has a bright future.

At the risk of upsetting some people I would like to say this.

I do not feel religion and politics should be mixed. They are different systems in place for different things. As long as Egypt new president remembers that he is there to help his people live, rather than tell them how to live, then everything will be ok!



Should you come to Egypt on holiday? YES.

 Should we continue to love and enjoy and learn it’s fabulous art form that is bellydance? YES

Do I feel personally safe? YES (if I didn’t I would move!)

Do I fear the worst? YES (although my fear is more about prejudices in the street rather than legislative in connection with work. I am concerned that the ’uneducated’ man might try to turn Egypt into their own islamist country, starting with covering their women and harassing the ones who refuse. Women’s rights in Egypt really are at an all time low )

Despite that, do I try and focus on the good and hope, YES

Does this answer or create more questions for people interested in Egypt and in particular for dance in Egypt?- you tell me......

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Worried Wait.............

So, this is a first for me.

I have never been so nervous for the result of an election before. I am exhausted, it’s been a long hot day... but I can’t take my eyes off twitter. Every time an areas vote has been counted they get posted there.

I’ve never been so interested in politic before in my life. Quite frankly, living most my life in UK, I had never really thought there was much of a muchness between parties. Not so in Egypt now.

Here in Egypt we are all holding our breaths, waiting to find out if we will have a Muslim Brotherhood leader- Mursi, or the 'old regime' favourite , Shafiq.

The race does seem very close- although most areas at the moment I am writing this (nearly 3am) seem to be in Mursi's favour.

These past 18 months have seen so much. I have no idea what the future holds. I cannot even begin to imagine... only fear.

Me, along with most people in the country. Both sides in their campaigns used fear tactics against the opposite side to the point that it is really hard to know what truth, if any is, and what the rumours. My Tabal tonight told me not to worry; it is all in God's hands and whatever the outcome it is for the best. At stressful times like these, I guess faith is the main fall back- so if Mursi is to win due to that, then no one can really be surprised.

Whoever crosses that finishing line tomorrow? I am fairly confident that it won’t really be the finish- but only just the starting line.

Whether Egypt becomes with Shafiq an army run country ( with even more powers than it had in Mubarak’s 'reign' due to new legislation announced only tonight once the results had started to come in) or whether the head of the country is Mursi, part of who's campaign announced that if you vote Mursi you are voting for God and for Islam (which must be a hard argument to vote against unless you are really convinced that religion and politics should not be confused ), the times ahead are bound to be very interesting.

Everyone I know within Tourism and Entertainment voted Shafiq. Whether it will come to pass or not, they are scared that if Mursi gets in he will 'stop all the fun'. No more bellydance, alcohol nightclubs, live music.... a huge list of bans of which these distractions will be merely that, a distraction.

This is still a risk. I just have to hope for my own sake, and for all those who I live beside and work beside, that, no matter who gets voted in by morning, does what is truly best for Egypt.

In my heart of hearts I cannot believe that controlling and restricting people can make a country grow. I am perhaps naive and foolish. I worry. In fact those who know me well, say that worry is my permanent state of being. Just now I am worried right down to my nail beds.

Forgive me this worried waffle......( and thank you for reading thus far!!) .... it is strange writing it in all my uncertainties , knowing that at least part of this will be history before most people get to read it.

By the time you are reading this we probably already know who will be Egypt's next president. (Only probably because in the last 18 months in particular I have come to realise you really can’t take anything for granted).

What we won't know, not for a while.... will be the actual real effects that this choice will bring to us all.

I have to try to sleep now - Tomorrow will bring what it may. 'Hanshuf' (we will see)

nb.- Before I get more sarcastic comments from 'Anonymous'; I am not a journalist. I am not pretending to be. I am a woman, a dancer, who has chosen Egypt as her home for the last 6 years because I love so many things about this amazing country cultures and its people. My fears are partly selfish, which is only human (I am human!) but I know how lucky I am. I also know I have the choice to leave if that is what I would decide to do, if things were to get bad. If my job was to suddenly be banned for instance. My fears are also however, with the Egyptians who don’t have the same choices or freedoms as I do in my life.

I hope my Tabal is right......................

Sunday, June 10, 2012

and the earth moved..

Did the earth move for you too?!

Sitting at my computer in Cairo, on my 8th floor apartment... my stomach started to sway. It took me a few seconds to recognise to be honest. After all- my belly sways for a living!

Then I realised the the table and I were moving at slightly different times, and then the gentle chinking of the chandiliers drew my attention.

Yes... an earthquake. A little one. But a noticable one.

That makes it the 3rd I have felt in the 6 years I have lived in Cairo.

When it happens my 1st thought is , how big is this going to get? am I in danger? then- when it becomes apparent that it is calming down I feel sad... I want the sway to stay!

It's like Mother Nature is gently rocking troubled Cairo ... Trying to get her baby to relax and come out of the nightmare.

Times have been tough for most people in Cairo since Jan 25th last year. Tourism is down and people are scared to invest and build their businesses until they know the outcome of the presidential elections next week.

One tweet just now shows the confusion that is happening politically in the country;

"@mmabrouk: #Egypt earthquake. Waiting for #Shafik to claim was caused by #MB, MB to claim it's caused by godlessness & SCAF to arrest someone for it."

So, although the earth of Egypt has stopped its shimmy, for now... the agitation that is in the country will be with us for a little longer...

In the meantime... I recommend we dance. Create our own calming sway!

(news just in- in Sharm el Sheik the earthquake measured- 4.1... )

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Bellydance school project

My cousin's daughter, Maya, was asked to do a school project. In her words "I was going to do armadillos, but have changed my mind & now want to do the history of belly dancing".
She asked my advice and I gave her the names of a few websites to research from and a few days later she sent me this.
I loved it so much I thought I would share it with you all. Maya was very happy when I asked her permission! It Looks pretty professioanl for a primary school project dont you think?
(oh- and the 'wondershare logo' on each page is because I had no idea how to change PDF files to jpeg... so I used this site- and if you use it for free you end up with their logo on each image- you advertise for them- very annoying and I wouldnt buy the program for that reason now !!!)

Needless to say it was this last page that made me well up!!! Thank you Maya! xxxx